Sunday, 28 August 2011

Mini Cupcakes - Chocolate and Rose Flavours

There is something absolutely addictive about these mini cupcakes. Perhaps it's because they taste soooo good and each one is just a mouthful, prompting the thought 'well there's no harm in having just one more'. Perhaps it's because they look so daintily pretty, like something out of a 1950's tea party with their little buttercream tops resembling flowers or sweet sea anemones. Whatever the reason, these little babies are extremely popular. When I served them for a 60th birthday party this week they didn't last long!

Makes 35, so serves approx 15 (2 or 3 mini cupcakes per person)
Base and icing recipe adapted from the one given on website Forkd by the intruigingly named lukkie_shipwreck. See her recipe online here. 
Chocolate icing recipe adapted from Xanthe Milton's one for Easter Nest Cupcakes in her gorgeous book Eat Me. Buy the book on Amazon.

for the batter:
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
2 large eggs, room temperature
125g self raising flour
125g golden caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons milk

for the chocolate batter flavour:
30g dark chocolate (70% solids)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

for the rose batter flavour:
half a teaspoon rose water
grated zest of half a small unwaxed lemon

1. Turn oven to 190C (170C fan ovens). Fill several mini muffin pans with mini cupcake cases.

2. In a large bowl, throw in all the batter ingredients except the milk, and beat well until combined.

3. Next add the milk, and stir again.

4. To make the two flavours, place half the batter into a second large mixing bowl.

5. To make the chocolate batter, melt the chocolate over a low heat in a saucepan before leaving to cool for a moment. Add the cocoa powder to the batter in the first bowl, and stir carefully. Then pour in the melted chocolate and continuing stirring gently until the batter is smooth and combined.

6. To make the rose batter, stir the rose water and grated lemon zest into the batter in the second bowl.

7. Use a teaspoon to carefully spoon the chocolate batter into the cases, and then the rose batter. Fill the cases until they are two thirds full. My 2 mini muffin trays hold 12 cupcakes each, so I filled them and baked the cupcakes in several batches, covering the leftover batters under plates and cooking the final batch when the first had come out of the oven.

8. Place the mini muffin trays into the oven and bake for 14-15 minutes. You'll know they're done when a skewer comes out clean.

9. When done, leave the cupcakes for a couple of minutes before placing them on a wire rack to cool, and put the next batch of cupcakes to bake in the oven. When all are baked, leave them to cool on the rack and you can get on with the icing.

for the rose icing:
300g icing sugar, sifted 
150g unsalted butter, room temperature
half a teaspoon rose water
pink food colouring tint paste

7. Combine the butter and icing sugar. Stir in the rose water and mix together. Add a pin prick of colour tint (I used Dusky Pink by SugarFlair), and gently stir it in.

8.  Get a pint glass. Place a piping bag with a star nozzle inside the glass, so that the nozzle is on the bottom of the glass. Fold the piping bag edges over the glass rim. Spoon the rose icing into the piping bag, then carefully take the bag out of the glass and twist the end of the bag so that the icing is well contained.

9. Pipe the icing over the rose cupcakes and add any sprinkles or sugar flowers you fancy to decorate.

for the chocolate icing:
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
42g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
142g icing sugar, sifted
half a teaspoon vanilla extract
60ml double cream
170g unsalted butter, room temperature

10. Melt the chocolate over a low heat, and then leave to cool.

11. Mix the icing sugar and cocoa powder in a large bowl. When combined, beat in the butter.

12. Add the vanilla extract, cream and melted chocolate to the icing, and whisk briskly for at least 3 minutes until smooth and the colour has lightened.

13. Follow the same method as before for icing the cupcakes, using a second piping bag, and piping the icing onto the chocolate cupcakes before adding any decoration you like.

These mini cupcakes were idly baked while listening to Roberta Flack's album Killing Me Softly

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Dairy Free Summer Berry Bundt Cake

This bundt cake is a great cake to bake when you need to feed lots of people, and looks thoroughly celebratory filled with a riot of bright summer berries. It's called a bundt cake because it's baked in a special ring shaped tin, which is a sort of decorative mould with fluted sides. This dairy free recipe can also be made gluten free if you simply swop the plain flour for a gluten free one, and use gluten free baking powder instead of the cream of tartar. The lightness of this lovely recipe is mirrored by the delicate marbling of yellow and white in its crumb, and the sweet taste allows the tangy berries to take centre stage. A beautiful cake to make in the last sunny days before summer's end.

Serves 12
Adapted from Sophie Grigson's great seasonal cookery book, Country Kitchen. Buy the book on Amazon here.

9 large egg whites
4 large egg yolks
1 tsp cream of tartar
150g plain flour
250g caster sugar
2 pinches salt
2 tsps vanilla extract
3 tsps finely grated lemon zest

1. Turn the oven 190C (170C fan ovens), and grease and flour a 25cm bunt tin or ring mould. Grigson says to leave it ungreased and unfloured, but trust me, after all the faff, prodding and elbow grease it took for me to prise this baked cake out of the bundt tin, you will want to prep it to avoid it sticking as it did with me! Perhaps a springform ring mould would be an easier baking option.

2. Put out 4 large mixing bowls. Sift the flour at least four times, using 2 of those bowls. In the third bowl, whisk the 9 egg whites and the cream of tartar and salt together until they form soft peaks.

3. Add most of the sugar to the egg white mixture, leaving aside just 2 tablespoons of sugar for later. Pour in the vanilla extract and whisk until the mixture is thick and shiny.

4. Fold in a third of the sifted flour to the egg whites, gently mixing it in until combined, then add the second part of it, mixing well, then the third part, until all the flour is stirred in.

5. In the fourth large bowl, beat the egg yolks and the reserved 2 tablespoond of sugar until yellow and thickened.

6. To the thickened egg yolk, stir in a third of the egg white mixture, and the lemon zest. 

7. Using a large spoon, place dollops of the egg white mixture into the prepared bundt tin, alternating it with dollops of the egg yolk mixture, so that the two nestle side by side and ontop of eachother in the tin.

8. Once all the egg white and the egg yolk mixtures are in the tin, place it in the oven for approx 35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

9. When the cake is done, gently turn the tin upside down and leave it to cool in the tin on a wire rack. Once totally cool, use a spatula or a fork to gently prise the cake away from the tin sides. This is where I had difficulty, hence the scuff marks you can see at the bottom of my cake where it stuck to the tin.

for the icing:
approx 250g icing sugar
2 tbsps lemon juice
1 or 2 punnets of mixed berries: raspberries, blueberries, or strawberries, all washed

10. For the icing, just mix the lemon juice into the icing sugar and beat with a fork until well combined and the consistency you want.

11. Pour the icing over the cake, and then fill the hole in the centre of the cake with berries, layering them also over the top if you like. Dust the berries with a little icing sugar and let the icing dry for half an hour before serving.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of Karen Elson's album The Ghost Who Walks

Friday, 19 August 2011

Flourless Dark Chocolate & Almond Torte

This is the most gorgeous sophisticated dessert cake, dense and rich but not so decadent that you can't manage several slices. It is flourless and therefore gluten free, and it rises nicely in the oven without any need for a glutenous raising agent such as baking powder. I can't begin to describe how heavenly it smells when it's in the oven. Mmmmmmm chocolate.

Serves 8-10
Adapted from the recipe by Jane Hornby at BBC Good Food Online, see the recipe here
I've taken the flour out of her recipe and replaced it with more ground almonds, to give a lovely nutty sweetness that works with the darkness of the chocolate brilliantly.

200g unsalted butter, room temperature
200g caster sugar
200g dark chocolate, 70% cocoa solids (Green & Blacks recommended)
100g ground almonds
4 large eggs
quarter tsp salt
cocoa powder, for decoration

1. Turn oven to 180C (160 fan ovens), and line and grease a 20 or 23cm size cake tin.

2. Chop the chocolate and butter into small pieces and warm them in a pan over a gentle heat, until melted.

3. Whisk the eggs and sugar together for about 5 minutes until smooth and combined.

4. Add the melted chocolate and butter to the egg and sugar mixture, lightly stirring them together with a metal spoon.

5. Next throw in the ground almonds and a tiny bit of salt and very gently fold them into the batter.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared tin, and bake in the oven for approx 40 minutes, perhaps a little longer. You'll know it's done when the top bounces back under your finger. Don't be peturbed if the skewer hasn't come out clean, it's a dense, truffle sort of cake.

7. Leave in the tin to cool for 15 minutes. Then remove cake from the tin and dust with cocoa powder. It can be served still warm or when completely cool at room temperature. Serve with fruit, cream, whatever you fancy.

This torte was baked while idly listening to Jarvis Cocker's Sunday Service on BBC 6 Music. 

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Lemon Curd Layer Cake

This sweet and zesty lemon curd layer cake is a lovely alternative to the oft baked lemon drizzle. In contrast to the popular drizzle, lemon curd is rather neglected by bakers, which seems a shame considering it makes as delicious a filling for layer cakes as jam or cream. Give it a try if you fancy something different.

Serves 8 - 10
Adapted from the recipe by Deila Smith given at BBC Food Online. See the recipe here.
Being an idle sort, I advocate the buying of lemon curd, but I include Delia's lemon curd recipe for those who would like to make their own.

For the base:
1 tbsp lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon, grated
1 tsp baking powder
175g self raising flour
175g butter
175g caster sugar
3 eggs

1. Turn the oven to 170C (150C Fan), and line and grease two 18cm sandwich tins.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the eggs and beat well.

3. Add the lemon juice and grated lemon zest.

4. Sieve in the flour and baking powder and mix well until the batter is creamy and smooth

5. Pour the batter evenly into the two prepared tins, and bake in the oven for 35 minutes. You'll know they're done when a skewer comes out clean and the tops bounce back under your finger.

6. Leave the cakes to cool in their tins for 20 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack or 2 plates.

for the lemon curd:
either Short bought locally made lemon curd
or 1 large lemon, grated zest and juice only
75g caster sugar
50g butter
2 eggs

7. If you're lazy like me, then buy a lovely local lemon curd and save yourself some bother.
If instead you fancy making your own, then put the sugar and lemon zest in a bowl and put to one side.

8. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and lemon juice together. Then add them to the sugar and lemon zest and mix well.

9. Chop the butter into little pieces and then add it to the mixture.

10. Stir the curd in the bowl over a bain mairie, which is a pan of almost simmering water, for about 20 minutes until the mixture is thickened. Remove bowl from pan and leave to cool.

11. Either way, when the cakes are totally cool, spread the lemon curd generously over the bottom cake, then place the second cake ontop.

for the icing:
zest of 1 large lemon
50g sifted icing sugar
2-3 tsp lemon juice

12. To make the icing, sift the icing sugar and stir in the lemon juice, whisking until it forms a smooth icing.

13. Spoon the icing over the top cake, and spread it letting it drip down the sides. Finely grate the lemon zest over the icing and leave to firm at least 30 minutes before serving.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of Pulp's album Different Class.  

Friday, 12 August 2011

Cakes for a picnic part 2: Banana Bread

This moist Banana Bread tastes amazing and is a perfect cake for picnics, being easy to transport and no fuss to eat. This wonderful spiced recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook has become a real favourite with us, it's very easy to rustle up if you fancy something simple, and can be stored in the freezer and defrosted whenever you need it.

Serves 8
Adapted from the recipe given in the lovely Hummingbird Bakery Cookery book by Tarek Malouf.

2 eggs
200g peeled bananas (approx 4 small ones)
270g dark muscovado sugar
140g unsalted butter
280g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
2 tbsps demerara sugar to decorate, optional

1. Turn the oven to 170C (150C fan ovens), and line and grease a 2 lb loaf tin.

2. Mash the bananas with a fork, and put to one side.

3. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar together. Then add the mashed banana and mix well.

4. Throw in the dry ingredients: flour, bicarb of soda, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger. Stir until the mixture is smooth and combined.

5. Meanwhile, heat the butter over a low heat until just melted, before leaving to cool for a momemnt. Then pour the melted butter into the batter and mix thoroughly.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared baking tin. Sprinkle demerara sugar ontop before baking in the oven for approx 50 minutes - 1 hour. You'll know it's done when the top bounces back when you press it with a finger, and a skewer comes out clean.

7. Let the cake cool in the tin for 15 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely. This cake tastes even better after a day or two, so it's a good one to make in advance for a picnic.

This cake was idly baked while listening to the news on BBC Radio 4

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Cakes for a picnic part 1: Gluten Free Cherry Bakewell Cake

One of the best things about summer is the chance to eat outdoors, be it sandwiches and shortbread on a walk or just lunch outside in the garden. Preparing for a beach picnic with friends recently I realised there are certain dos and don'ts to outdoor eating. Do bake a cake; don't bake a fiddly one. Layer cakes get rather worse for wear as you carry them to your picnic destination. Anything with icing is a no no as it can slide off the cake or be melting by the time you come to eat it. A drizzle is the exception, one of our party baked a lovely lemon drizzle which was unaffected by the journey or the sunshine. Chocolate toppings, like buttercream or cream cheese icing, rarely work on picnics, especially if it's a hot day. So your best bet are simple, easy to make and easy to carry cakes. I baked two cakes for our beach picnic, and here's the first, a really scrumptious cherry bakewell cake, gluten free for those in the party who are wheat intolerant and tasting just like the bakewells of my childhood.

Serves 8 -10
Adapted from the recipe at BBC Good Food Online, see the recipe here
I changed the fruit from raspberry to fresh cherry, added extra almond flavouring and turned it gluten free.

150g ground almonds
150g caster sugar
150g unsalted butter
150g gluten free self raising flour (Dove's Farm or M&S mix recommended)
2 large eggs
1 tsp almond extract
250g fresh cherries, pitted and halved
2 tbsp flaked almonds
1 tbsp icing sugar for decoration

1. Heat oven to 180 (160C Fan) and line and grease a 20cm spring form cake tin.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

3, Add the first egg, and beat well before adding the second into the mixture. Beat again, before throwing in the ground almonds and almond extract.

4. Next sieve in half the flour, and stir gently with a metal spoon until well combined.

5. Sift in the rest of the flour and stir.

6. Pour half the batter over the base of the cake tin, before placing the cherries evenly over the top. Then add the rest of the batter ontop, spread and smooth down with a spatula. Make sure that all the cherries are covered by the batter.

7. Sprinkle the flaked almonds over the cake, then put in the oven to bake for approx 50 minutes. You'll know it's done when a skewer comes out clean.

8. Take out of the oven and leave to cool in the tin for at least half an hour.

9. When the cake is completely cool, remove from the tin and dust a little icing sugar over the top. Store in a cake tin and transport in the tin or wrap in kitchen foil when you go to the picnic. Remember to take a knife, and paper plates, as everyone will want at least one slice!


This cake was idly baked while listening to Patti Smith's album Wave

Friday, 5 August 2011

Chocolate & Blueberry Marble Cake

Marble cakes epitomise the wonder of childhood to me, with their surreal and beautiful swirls they are quite magical. This lovely chocolate and blueberry marble cake looks tricky to make but it's actually really simple. The sweet taste of the cake makes it especially good for children, and they'll enjoy making the swirly batter with you too. If you'd like to make a cocoa-free version, just replace the chocolate batter with a colour tinted one like red or blue.

Serves 8
Base cake adapted from the recipe given at BBC Good Food Online. See the recipe here.
Icing adapted from Fiona Cairn's book Bake & Decorate. Buy the book on Amazon

for the base:
4 tbsps milk
2 or 3 tbsps cocoa
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g unsalted butter
225g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
225g caster sugar

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C fan ovens), and grease and line a 20cm baking tin.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

3. Add the first egg to the creamed mixture, and beat well before adding the second and beating until the mixture is combined. 

4. Next throw in the flour, milk, and vanilla extract a bit at a time. Mix well until the batter is smooth.

5. Find a second large mixing bowl, and spoon half of the batter into it. Add cocoa powder to this half of the batter, stirring carefully until integrated and dark.

6. Using 2 spoons, spoon alternate dollops of the chocolate and vanilla batters into the cake tin, until the mix is all used and the bottom of the tin evenly covered. Tap the base of the tin on a work surface to get rid of any cake bubbles. Then take a skewer or the tip of a knife, and gently swirl it around the mixture a couple of times to create the marbling.

7. Bake for 50 minutes until the top bounces back under you finger and a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, before placing on a wire rack or plate to cool. 


For the buttercream icing:
80g blueberries, washed
1 tbsp water
150g unsalted butter
200g icing sugar
Extra blueberries for decoration, optional

8. To make the buttercream, beat the butter until fluffy.

9. Heat the blueberries with the water in a small saucepan over a low heat for 5 minutes. Then crush the berries with a fork, before sieving them over a bowl to catch the berry juice.

10. Add the berry juices to the butter, and colour purple (I used SugarFlair Grape Violet). With colour tint pastes you only need to add a pin prick amount before stirring it in to give the icing colour, so the more you add the stronger the colour will be.

11. Sift the icing sugar into the mixture and beat for a minimum of 5 minutes, until all is combined and creamy.

12. Spread over the top of the cooled cake, and dot with blueberries in any pattern you like. Enjoy! Due to the buttercream, this cake keeps best if stored in the fridge.

This cake was idly baked to the sounds of Zbigniev Preisner's Requiem for My Friend.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Easy Baked Raspberry Cheesecake

Last week I baked my first ever cheesecake. Being an idle sort, I was searching around for the easiest recipe when I found this gem online via Olive Magazine. Forget all the fussy water baths or food processors required by most cheesecake recipes, this one is remarkably simple. And what it loses in culinary fuss it makes up for in taste. It is just exquisite. Who knew that delicious cheesecakes could be so easy to bake! Well maybe you did, but I'm a little slow with these things and my eyes have finally been opened. This will be the first of many cheesecakes to come.

From Olive Magazine July 2005, listed at BBC Good Food Online. See the recipe here. 
Serves 8

8 or 9 digestive biscuits
600g mascarpone cheese or other cream cheese
50g butter, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
2 tbsp plain flour
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
half a teaspoon vanilla extract
300g raspberries
142 ml sour cream
1 tablespoon icing sugar

1. Turn the oven to 180C (160C fan) and get out a 20cm cake tin.

2. Crush the biscuits by putting them in a sealed plastic bag and attacking them with a rolling pin (this is very enjoyable, a good way of getting rid of any grievances of the day).

3. Either melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat, or do what I did and forget to melt it. Mix the crushed ground biscuits with the butter. Because I forgot to melt it I just cut the butter up very small and then combined it with the biccies with my clean hands. But the melted butter option is probably a quicker way to combine the two.

4. Press the biscuit butter mixture into the cake tin, making sure it covers the bottom evenly. Cook in the oven for 5 minutes, then take out and leave to cool.

5. In a large bowl mix the flour, caster sugar, cream cheese, sour cream, vanilla extract, eggs and egg yolk. Beat until fluffy.

6. Add half the raspberries (150g), stirring them gently into the batter.

7. Pour the batter into the tin, making sure it covers all the biscuit base, and smooth down the top.

8. Bake for approx 40 minutes. You'll know it's done when the cheesecake is set but still a bit wobbly in the middle. Leave the cake in the tin to cool. Ideally, once the cheesecake is cool, you can put it in the fridge to help it set overnight, before adding the topping the next day when ready to serve.

9. However if you want to serve the cake on the same day, then you can get straight on with the topping. Put a large handful of the leftover raspberries to one side for later. When the cake is cool, put all the rest of the berries in a pan with 1 tablespoon of icing sugar, and heat them gently for approx 5 minutes until they're giving out their lovely pink juice. Squash them with a fork and then push them through a sieve with a bowl underneath to catch all the juices.

10. When the cheesecake is ready to serve, pour the raspberry sauce over the cake and top it with the handful of raspberries. If the cake has been in the fridge overnight, just take it out and let it rest at room temperature for 20 minutes before adding the sauce and raspberry topping when ready to serve.

This cheesecake was idly baked to the sounds (and sights) of Sam Peckinpah's classic western Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid